Why Your Body Language Can Shape Who You Are

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated November 24, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Body language is often a part of being human. People consciously and subconsciously move their bodies and make facial expressions to communicate emotions and thoughts without talking. Due to its significance in human behavior, understanding body language can offer an avenue to understand your mental health and personality. 

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What Is Body Language? 

Body language is a type of nonverbal communication in which physical behavior and body signals are used to express or convey information. Examples of body language include facial expressions, posture, touch, and how individuals manage the space around them. 

In some regards, body language can be a more potent form of communication than verbal language. In addition, perceptions of body language can vary depending on one's environment and upbringing. The body language of individuals can shape an individual's personality or showcase factors of their personality to others. 

A Close Analysis Of Body Language

Body language can speak volumes about a person's genuine emotions, level of comfort, and intentions. However, a lot of body language occurs due to the subconscious mind. Research suggests that even a fraction of a second of exposure to facial expressions and body language can help individuals understand how another person feels. When you make observations and assumptions about another person's feelings based on body language, you may be able to respond in a way that addresses emotion and words simultaneously. 

Components Of Body Language And How They Impact Personality 

Learning to understand and use body language can be helpful in many situations, including relationships, at home, or on the job. There are several components of body language to consider, some of which may be more significant and impactful than others.

Note that not everyone relates to the typical meanings of body language. Some people might struggle to make facial expressions that match their emotions or may live with an underlying mental health challenge that makes their body language unreadable or incongruent with their symptoms. In these cases, body language may not be the only way to understand the individual's personality. 

Facial Expressions

Facial expressions are often a significant clue into one's emotions and dispositions. This particular form of body language can motivate the brain to engage in different cognitive processes based on what is observed. 

Looking at one's face may give you insight into their mood. For instance, happy people tend to smile. In contrast, discontented people may frown or maintain a stoic facial expression. A bored individual may yawn, and someone who feels angry or impatient may grit their teeth, roll their eyes, or subconsciously tense up their facial muscles.

General perceptions regarding levels of trustworthiness and intelligence may be affected by facial expressions. Individuals who maintain eye contact while speaking may be more likely to be deemed honest and reliable. However, these conclusions are judgments and may not be accurate. 

Like the eyes, the mouth can play a critical role in body language and communication via facial expressions. Frowns are often regarded as signs of unhappiness, while smiles are universally perceived as indicators of happiness. Some people cover their mouths when they are yawning or laughing. Tightened mouths or lips often show disapproval, disdain, or a lack of trust. Finally, depending on the setting and circumstances, biting one's lip can convey stress, anxiety, concern, or sexual arousal.


Hand Gestures

Unlike some facial expressions, the interpretations of various hand gestures can vary, especially between different cultures and parts of the world. However, hand gestures are often tied to a particular meaning depending on the environment or setting. 

For instance, a thumbs-up may be regarded as a nonverbal affirmation of approval, while its inverse, a thumbs-down, is viewed as an expression of disapproval. The waving of one's hand or hands is viewed in many cultures as a way of nonverbally saying "hello" or "goodbye." These forms of non-verbal communication may affirm to others that one is trustworthy, friendly, and non-threatening. 

Posture And Space

A person's posture may be indicative of their personality and feelings. For instance, standing or sitting upright often communicates high focus, interest, and attention levels. Conversely, slouching, hunching over, or holding one's chin with the palm of a hand tends to convey fatigue, annoyance, disinterest, or boredom.

Allotted amounts of personal space can also send a message. Someone who feels disgusted, fearful, or annoyed with another person may back away or attempt to increase the distance between themselves and the object of their displeasure. Conversely, a confrontational or aggressive individual may invade someone's personal space. In less hostile situations, the close distance between two individuals can indicate an intimate or friendly relationship. 

Want To Better Understand Your Own Bodily Cues?

How Does Body Language Shape Who You Are?

Research has suggested that using body language and interpreting it can alter how humans think, which can impact behavior and the consequences of people's decisions. Smiling, for instance, can lower a person's heart rate and reduce stress, even if the smile is fake or forced. This statistic suggests that the brain processes the physical stimuli associated with body language and uses it to guide how to respond.

Humans can be creatures of habit. For this reason, some people form specific postures, facial expressions, or hand gestures when emotions are high. Someone attempting to hide irritation may narrow their eyes and slightly purse their lips. A sad person may tilt their head back to avoid tearing up. Each person may have their own unique body language cues that correspond with different emotional states. As people form relationships with one another, the process of picking up on specific emotions, even those that are concealed, often becomes easier. 

Body language can impact your personality by affecting how the world sees you. A person's stance, eye contact, and hand gestures can determine whether they are hired, given a promotion, or asked out on a date. Body language also wields power to impact opportunities, general perceptions, and the people in your life. However, it can be challenging for those who struggle with body language and reading social cues to know how to communicate who they are when their body doesn't.  

How To Learn More About Your Body Language

Although some people have the power to control their body language, ongoing challenges related to using body language as intended or understanding that of others may be indicative of more than personal preference. Likewise, body language that frequently communicates a low mood, fatigue, or disinterest in connecting with others can point to a mental illness. 

Whether you want to learn more about how to use and understand body language or have picked up on how your bodily cues might connect to the way you feel, outside perspective can be a part of kickstarting change. If you face barriers to in-person support, you can use online therapy platforms like BetterHelp to connect with a mental health professional from home. 

Some people who pursue online therapy believe it helps them address their concerns effectively. It also observed that online distance could enhance the connection between a therapist and their patients, which may be ideal if the thought of in-person therapy is intimidating.


Body language can shape some aspects of personality and how others perceive you. Learning to use and understand body language may help you navigate the world more effectively and confidently, even if it's a skill you work to develop rather than one that feels inherent. Consider contacting a therapist to learn more about this topic and receive more individualized support.

Learn how your body communicates

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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